19 October 2009

UGANDA : We are unstoppable, says Afidra

by Sande Bashaija

Friday at YMCA
DMark Power v Warriors 8:30pm

Even after surviving a late scare to defeat Falcons on Friday, DMark Power utility player Isaac Afidra doesn’t see any team stopping them from defending their MTN-Fuba League title.

Power have lost only once and are on course to emerge regular season champions but their lackluster display in the dying minutes of Friday’s 79-78 victory over Falcons, exposed a few loopholes in the team.

“We lost concentration in the third quarter and gave them too much space,” Afidra, arguably the best player in the league so far, told Scoreline after the game. “You shouldn’t forget that Falcons are also a decent side. They have always given us a hard time although we some how get to beat them.”

The game between the two sides lived up to its billing in every sense of the word.
Down by 10 points going into the last minute, record champions Falcons mounted a comeback that nearly sent the game into overtime had Sam Obol not missed a free throw with four seconds on the clock.

The YMCA arena was packed to capacity and the atmosphere so overwhelming but some ‘impatient’ Falcons fans missed out on the drama. For they had walked out, resigned to the fact that Power had recorded a comfortable victory. The influential Henry Malinga opted to sit out despite his recovery from a knee injury and Falcons were banking on Shs72m signing Stephen Omony and the experienced Obol to inflict a second loss on Power. The duo didn’t disappoint. They combined for 23 points but were unlucky that their late heroics didn’t turn the game in their team’s favour.

Obol hit a three-pointer with 27 seconds to play before Omony made a steal and added another to close the gap on Power (77-79).

With four seconds left, Obol stepped on the charity line but missed one of the two free throws and Omony’s three-point attempt moments later went astray, much to the relief of Power and their nervous fans.

“I think I should have made a drive instead of shooting. May be I would have picked a foul,” Omony said of his final attempt that would have won the game for Falcons.

Sleeping mode
Power won the first quarter 22-18, surrendered the second 14-15 but stepped up gear to dominate the third 24-17. But when it mattered most in the last session, Power switched to sleeping mode, falling 19-28.

Nonetheless, having already qualified for the play-offs, Afidra reckons performances in the regular season count for too little. “We are ready to take on any team,” he stated.

Peter Mubanda’s team will be delighted with the display of their new recruit Michael Kojjo (18 points), who earlier in the game made a mockery of the Falcons’ defense every time he ventured into their paint. Former MVP Norman Blick top scored for Power with 21 points and is steadily returning to the form that saw him win two championships with Nkumba Marines in 2005 and 2006.

The addition of the sleek Ben Komakech and the evergreen Ken Balyejusa makes Power look like the team to beat. However, Falcons remain unpredictable as usual while Kyambogo Warriors, too, have the depth.

“Although we lost tonight, I think we have demonstrated our character,” Falcons’ star Omony revealed. “I believe we are good enough to contend for the title,” Omony who returned to Falcons this year from Sychelles, added.

Malinga is set to return for the semifinals and this has raised Falcons’ hopes of capturing a seventh trophy this year. Yet youngsters Geoffrey Soro and Edwin Kateregga have also stepped up their game. “Henry’s return will be a very big boost,” Omony noted.

There is a possibility of Falcons facing Warriors in the best-of-five semifinal play-off series but Omony and company are not yet drawing strategies for the encounter. “We are taking it one game at time,” he said. “Whichever team we are drawn against, we shall do our best.” Warriors face Power in the regular season’s final game on Friday and must beat the champions by more than four points to finish top of the standings.

However, defeat would condemn them to second position and draw them against third-placed Falcons, a team they rarely defeat at the big stage.

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